OT: Is Michigan the Wolverine State or the Great Lakes State?

Submitted by husker4life on September 11th, 2012 at 5:48 PM

My 16 year old cousin and I are very close and in reality she's basically like a sister to me. She was given this fun quiz by her humanities teacher about state nicknames such a Illinois, "Land of Lincon" state, Maine "The Pine Tree state" etc. She always thought Michigan was the Wolverine state which is what I thought but it turns out the accepted nickname is the Great Lakes state?  Where did the Wolverine State orginiate from? I don't listen to wikipedia anymore so I'd rather hear it from a source who lives there.



September 11th, 2012 at 5:53 PM ^

There is an old story going back to the Toledo War that, in the 10-minute conflict, Ohioans described Michiganians to be "as bloodthirsty as wolverines", hence "The Wolverine State". In more recent times, however, it has been "The Great Lakes State". That's my understanding. 


September 13th, 2012 at 9:53 AM ^

This is another one that is of contention.  I grew up with it being Michiganders and never heard the term Michiganian until the History Channel started their history of states type shows.  How long has this name been around?  I am from southwest Michigan so is it regional to the state?


September 12th, 2012 at 12:09 PM ^

 Looks like we have a true controversy. I had always thought officially we were the Wolverine state and Great Lake State was just a marketing tag like Water Winter Wonderland, etc.

 Actually MSU textbooks list us as Wolverine State. Had helped a niece with some course work she has at MSU. (I know, poor kid, we all feel sorry for her. But she got a full ride, and she is still “blue” on the inside.) It was an upper level geography class with the textbook online:

GEO 333 - Geography of Michigan and the Great Lakes Region (link )

Other facts
Statehood: Jan. 26, 1837, the 26th state.
State abbreviations: Mich. (traditional); MI (postal).
State capital: Lansing, Michigan's capital since 1847. Detroit served as capital from 1837 to 1847.
State motto: Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam, circumspice (If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you).
Popular name: The Wolverine State.
State song (unofficial): "Michigan, My Michigan." Words by Douglas M. Malloch.

However, State of Michigan (in the Michigan State Facts section) officially lists itself as “Great Lake State” first:


Michigan.gov – Official web site for the sate of Michigan – States the opposite.

Michigan's State Facts ( link )

·  The name Michigan is derived from the Indian words "Michi-gama" meaning large lake.

·  The State Nickname is the "Great Lake State." Others include "Wolverine State" or "Water Winter Wonderland."

 In summation, we have a lot of facts but no real conclusion. I guess we really don’t know what we are.  /s

(Also the GEO333 text has some interesting and humorous items though understandably most look at wolverines fairly derogatorily in “Why are we supposed to be wolverines?”. link )

david from wyoming

September 11th, 2012 at 5:56 PM ^

Shamelessly copy/pasted from the DNR's website.

Michigan has long had an unofficial nickname: "The Wolverine State." However, evidence seems to show that wolverines in Michigan would have been rare. We don't know exactly how the state got the nickname, but two stories attempt to explain it.

Some people believe that Ohioans gave Michigan the nickname around 1835 during a dispute over the Toledo strip, a piece of land along the border between Ohio and Michigan. Rumors in Ohio at the time described Michiganians as being as vicious and bloodthirsty as wolverines. This dispute became known as the Toledo War.

Another reason given for the nickname is a story that has Native Americans, during the 1830s, comparing Michigan settlers to wolverines. Some native people, according to this story, disliked the way settlers were taking the land because it made them think of how the gluttonous wolverine went after its food.

Another nickname for Michigan is the "Great Lake State." Michigan's shores touch four of the five Great Lakes, and Michigan has more than 11,000 inland lakes. In Michigan, you are never more than six miles from an inland lake or more than 85 miles from a Great Lake. From 1969 to 1975 and from 1977 to 1983, Michigan's automobile license plates featured the legend, GREAT LAKE STATE.

Some references to Michigan during the early 20th century also called the state "The Peninsula State."



September 11th, 2012 at 6:11 PM ^

I always thought the Great Lake State, especially since it was plastered on every license plate.  When I was a little kid the plates said "Winter Wonderland."


September 12th, 2012 at 8:56 AM ^

I remember 66-68 plates saying "Winter Wonderland"!

It was Wolverine State at the time we were called Michiganders!

Ever since we've been called Michiganians it has been called the Great Lake State!

What's on the Michigan License Plates now a days?

The best plates were the Bicentennial Plates '75-80! In '78, my first junk car had these Bicentennial plates.

Are there any neat alum plates for U of M?

M Fanfare

September 11th, 2012 at 6:14 PM ^

All I know is that when George Armstrong Custer led the Michigan Cavalry against a Confederate cavalry force on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, he yelled "Come on, you Wolverines!"


September 11th, 2012 at 6:18 PM ^

I was taught in elementary school that we're the Wolverine state. The only time I've heard us called anything else is by Kirk Heirbstreet in NCAA 13... so... yeah.


September 11th, 2012 at 7:09 PM ^

The nickname of "Wolverine" for Michigan residents predates the Civil War by a quarter century or so, and probably even predates Michigan's statehood by a few years.  By the time the Civil War started, every existing state had a pretty well-established nickname, including the familiar Buckeyes, Hoosiers, Badgers and Tar Heels, but also including the currently unknown "Suckers" for residents of Illinois and "Pukes" for residents of Missouri.


September 11th, 2012 at 11:40 PM ^

Although this is true to a certain extent, the nickname even predates statehood or the two years or so that we had to argue with the dummies down south about official boundaries. Unofficially the nickname was given to the seemingly stupid early residents who came to the territory. The territory was often advertised to those heading west as a dreadful place full of mosquitos and swamps. Those who were nuts enough to come to the desolate forested swamp were given the nickname do to their brash and gritty, backcountry toughness. Similar monikers are often associated with those who traveled and lived West
of the Mississippi during the first decades of the nineteenth century. Ex. Andrew Jackson and Tennessee.


September 12th, 2012 at 10:21 AM ^

Michigan residents did not covet Toledo. Ohio residents wanted that strip of land becuase it had the mouth of the Maumee River. The linking up of many river systems in Indiana in a canal system that ended with boat/goods coming out onto the Maumee River, then moving futhur up the Great Lakes and into New York. This was huge business, the state of Ohio wanted this land even though it was not inside of Ohio. As a state, they got the US government to redraw the lines so that it was. The residents of the time did not want to be part of Ohio, they were part of the Michigan territory. Ohio was the state that was coveting. They were the ones that wanted to have a "war" to get the territory, but Michiganders fought as hard as wolverines to keep it.